What was the draw of monster movies growing up?
first recollection of any monster movie was seeing “Twenty Million
Miles to Earth” at age 5. The sequence where the helicopter throws
the net over the Ymir had me just hypnotized. I knew it wasn’t a guy
in a suit…but, what was it? Were monsters real? I couldn’t tell. It
was so surreal. That fascinated me to no end.
Where you into the classic monsters?
were monsters to me. I would stay up late at night and idolize the
Saucer-Men, She Creature, Tarantula, then on the weekends on local
CH 11’s “Family Theatre” I’d watch Lugosi as the Monster, fight
Chaney as the Wolfman and think that’s the coolest rumble ever!
Monsters weren’t really scary to me. They were friends that really
couldn’t dress well. They were esthetic types, who, for some reason,
hated conforming to society…kinda like art students.
you have an early talent for art?
On my first day at Kindergarten, the teacher had me passing out the
paints and paper for finger painting. I’ve never looked back. The
paint was that really thick, cold, green paint. My mother has ALWAYS
been into creating something…ceramics, paintings, doll making,
puppets, etc. I’m assuming I get that gene from her. I was obsessed
with creating something at all times. I remember walking home
from elementary school one day in the blazing heat and thinking to
myself, “There’s got to be a way to draw, paint, and sculpt all day
and still make a living”. I was obsessed with that. I was so
obsessed with sculpting that the first wad of clay I owned was
actually stolen from a 3rd or 4th grade class
room. (It was a chunk of that red Kleen Klay…the type that comes in
a package of brown, grey, and dark green…the kind you can buy it at
the 5 & dime.) The teacher knew someone stole it and had us line up
outside. He drilled us and was hoping that one of us would break
down. I wouldn’t give that clay up for nothing! (Sorry Mr. Ferguson)
This stuff was magic and he could threaten all he liked. The clay
What did you make with the clay? Anything memorable from those
I can vaguely remember sculpting Godzilla at that time…a fully body
sculpt…about 6” high. I remember displaying it on my shelf with my
Aurora King Kong model.
What artists did you admire growing up
elementary school I had many influences…many Marvel and DC comic
artists…Neil Adams’ Batman…Kirby’s Fantastic Four…etc. I read about
and studied Da Vinci and Disney all at the same time. I was really
into Maurice Sendack’s “Where the Wild Things Are” and would copy it
religiously. I would gaze longingly at the “Wacky Packages” art and
marvel at their uncanny likenesses to the real item. (Later in life
I found out that Norman Saunders did a lot of those. He’s famous for
the 60’s Batman gum card paintings) I would copy images from issues
of Sad Sack, Casper and Hot Stuff from the Harvey comics. I also
would work on my likeness skills by coping Mort Drucker’s style from
Mad. There was also a local artist that did amazing liknesses and
editorial cartoons for the Dallas Times Herald…Bob Taylor…who I
idolized. His brush strokes were flawless. I wrote to him as a kid
and he sent me an original sports piece he did for the paper.
Were you a natural or did all that practicing start to pay off?
It’s hard to say. It looked like the subjects at hand to me…but
being objective is one of the harder things about creating pieces.
Other people responded to the work well …so I figured I was on the
career goals did you have while in HS and college?
I started shaping up my goals before I got into high school. In jr.
high I was selling my drawings for $1 a piece to the other kids, so
I knew I was good at drawing. I chose to go to a career development
high school in Dallas called Skyline. They had a commercial art
class taught by real career artists. I had to audition to get
accepted. As a freshman I hung with a guy who was really into
Frazetta and that’s where that influence came from. At the same
time, I got into Norman Rockwell and honed my likenesses by studying
everything he did. At that time, my buddy showed me a book called
“Film Fantasy Scrapbook” by Ray Harryhausen, which I flipped
through. I was diggin’ all the original monster designs. In one
chapter I saw the Ymir from “Twenty Million Miles to Earth” and that
made me stop cold. It was the creature from when I was a little kid!
I was amazed that this ONE man did all these great creatures, so
then and there I chose to go into film. I went through the entire 4
years as commercial art as my major, but I found ways to work stop
into the class for me and my friends. I went through thousands of
feet of super 8 film animating clay, GI Joes, Star Wars action
figures, etc. I spent hours and hours in the garage and my parent’s
travel trailer, practicing the craft and tremendous patience. I
wanted to do effects in movies. At the time, “American Werewolf in
London” had come out and make up had a different face to it. Once in
college, I bee-lined it to stage craft classes to learn make up,
because there was really no work for a kid in Dallas doing JUST stop
motion. The stage craft class really didn’t teach any makeup…they
were only interested in having me build sets for the prima donnas to
prance around in front of. I was the only one that could work in
free form constructions…like tree stumps, rocks, etc. I taught
myself make up techniques by living in the school library and
reading Richard Corson’s Stage Make Up. I would Xerox it a little
everyday and slip the copies in a binder, making my own copy. I
practiced on my younger siblings and filmed them on super 8 for
prosperity. At some point I came across Savini’s new book (ordered
it from Fantaco in Fangoria) and learned blood pumps and life
casting. These were my Bibles. The classes were given less
attention and the 8mm camera was given all the attention.
I was making films constantly
and thought I had landed in heaven when I went to the college’s
video department. They had a public access station there that would
let you make video productions, edit them, and put them on the
air…with out charging you a dime!! Heaven! There go my classes all
together. I went everyday into video production and learned how the
camera saw things, how to edit images, and learn storytelling and
film language. I was apparently so good, that I got my first job at
another local public access station as a cameraman and editor.
made a major career move by leaving your day job and going into
makeup FX. Talk about that decision.
I had done the 9 to 5 for about a year
at this cable station, when they decided to cut my hours and bring
on another person. I saw that the move was motivated by reasons
other than his abilities…which were nil, so I quit. The day I quit,
I totaled my car in the rain. I had to start from scratch. I felt I
had to do what I originally wanted, work in film, no matter how
impossible that might have seemed at that point. Working for small
time cable stations wasn’t my career goal so I did some soul
searching while I convalesced. At the time, (‘85) Dallas still had
small market UHF TV stations and I would watch this show called “Ch
27 Film Vault”. It was a hosted movie
but not with a horror theme. The two guys (Richard Malmos and Randy
Clower) were more like mine workers maintaining a huge underground
vault of the world’s film…(based on the film preservation act signed
by Roosevelt!). They would spice it up with film spoofs and assorted
creatures making appearances every week. Randy liked effects and
found some way to work one in every week. He would do it, or the
third partner in the mayhem, Kenny Miller, would pull off the gag.
(Kenny was working in the film business at the time professionally.)
I wrote them and basically said, “Look, I do effects…I’ve seen the
quality you do and I can match it or surpass it. You want any help?”
Surprisingly, Randy wrote me back and said sure, come on down. We
met and he basically challenged me to come up with a gag in six days
based on that next week’s film…”They Saved Hitler’s Brain”. I made
an articulated Hitler head for about $10 with a cable activated
and delivered it on time. They were blown away. It was light weight,
sturdy and resembled Adolf. I learned the basics on that show on how
to do things within a small budget and on a time constraint. The
show would shoot on a Thursday night and be edited and ready that
following Saturday. I had to come up with a gag every week! A
situation like that causes you to be incredibly resourceful and
inventive. It was a fun and original show that is sorely missed now.
I noticed a few years later that MST3K had a suspicious familiar
look. Guys in cover alls and hard hats pushing carts full of film